A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother’s name. What is the book’s connection to his family?
Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.
One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand.
The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.
This is a book that really wants to BE something: it wants to be magical, it wants to be historical, it wants to be mysterious, it wants to be literary, but most of all, it wants to be important. And if it’s important, it won’t matter that the characters are, on the whole, rather unlikeable, that the historical mystery remains rather vague, or that the ending is somewhat unsatisfying.
Don’t get me wrong: there are things to like about The Book of Speculation, and there were times when I was captivated by the story, and wondering where it was going to go (in both the past and present eras). I never had that annoying feeling that I already know exactly where the story is going – although sometimes it seemed as if the author didn’t know, either.
When the book ended, I just felt kind of “huh.” There was no “aha!” moment, no feeling that I understood things better. It was just done. The writing was beautiful and lyrical, but for me, that just isn’t enough.
Rating: 3/5 stars
I was given a copy of this book by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.